Thursday, July 30, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Année de la réconciliation en Afrique
Cité du Vatican, 29 juillet 2015 (VIS). Aujourd'hui à Accra (Ghana) s'ouvre par une messe l'Année de la réconciliation en Afrique, lancée à l'initiative du Symposium des Conférences épiscopales du continent et de Madagascar (Une Afrique réconciliée pour la coexistence pacifique). Elle se conclura le 29 juillet 2013 avec la XVII Assemblée plénière de l'épiscopat en Angola. L'Année de la réconciliation, qui prend place dans le sillage de l'exhortation apostolique post synodale de Benoît XVI Africae Munis (2011), entend demander pardon pour les les blessures et les offenses causées dans l'Eglise comme dans la société aux personnes et aux communautés de l'Afrique. Il s'agira, avait écrit le Pape émérite à Cotonou (Bénin) le 19 novembre 2011, d'un jubilé extraordinaire où les Eglises particulières d'Afrique et l'Eglise universelle prieront pour recevoir les dons de l'Esprit, et ceux de la réconciliation, de la la justice et de la paix tout particulièrement. L'idée était de mettre en application les recommandations du Synode de 2009 consacré à l'Afrique. Le Président du SECAM a adressé une lettre aux huit Conférences épiscopales pour les encourager à mettre sur pied des initiatives en la matière et à les coordonner tout au long de cette année jubilaire, avec l'aide des diverses Commissions Justice et Paix. Elles choisiront une date pour une collecte pour la Seconde Journée du SECAM, qui se déroule chaque deux ans pendant l'assemblée de cet organisme et dont le but est de soutenir des projets d'évangélisation, de renforcement de la justice et de la paix, ainsi que les media catholiques africains et malgaches.
- from the "Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom", published by the Synod of the Hierarchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1988. P. 83-85.
Monday, July 27, 2015
2015-07-26 Radio Vatican
(RV) A bientôt deux ans de l'enlèvement du jésuite Paolo Dall'Oglio en Syrie, le Pape François a lancé un appel solennel à l'issue de la prière de l'Angélus ce dimanche place Saint-Pierre. « J'adresse un appel sincère et pressant pour la libération de ce religieux estimé » a dit le Souverain Pontife. « Je ne peux pas oublier non plus les évêques orthodoxes enlevés en Syrie et toutes les personnes qui, dans les zones de conflit, ont été prises en otage » a également souligné le Saint-Père, qui a souhaité une nouvelle fois que les autorités locales et internationales s'engagent « afin que nos frères puissent retrouver rapidement la liberté ». « En participant à leurs souffrances, nous voulons les porter dans la prière » a conclu le Pape.
Militant du dialogue islamo-chrétien, le Paolo Dall'Oglio s’est rendu le 27 juillet 2013 dans la ville de Raqqa au nord-est de la Syrie. Expulsé en juin 2012 pour avoir défendu l’opposition au régime syrien de Bachar El Assad, le prêtre jésuite italien bravait l’interdiction de fouler le sol syrien où il vécut pendant plus de trente, notamment au monastère de Mar Moussa.
En se rendant à Raqqa, il souhaitait instaurer un dialogue entre les différentes factions hostiles au régime de Damas, se combattant entre elles. Il voulait tenter une médiation entre les groupes les plus radicaux, et en particulier auprès des djihadistes de l’Etat islamique en Irak et au Levant. On est sans nouvelle de lui depuis le 29 juillet 2013.
Mgr Gregorios Ibrahim, de l’Eglise syro-orthodoxe, et Mgr Paul Yazigi, de l’Eglise grecque-orthodoxe d’Antioche, ont été enlevés par des rebelles le 23 avril 2013, près d'Alep en Syrie.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
BEIRUT (Massis Post) — Bishop Krikor Ghabroyan (Emeritus Bishop of the Eparchy of France) was elected the new Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church. The new Patriarch has assumed the name Grégoire Pierre XX.
The celebration of its installation will be on August 9 in Lebanon. It will carry the title of “Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians”. the patriarchal headquarters is located in the convent of Bzommar and his residence in Beirut.
Pope Francis has sent a message of congratulations to the new Armenian Catholic Paticarch of Cilicia, his Beatiude Grégoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan.
In the message Pope Francis expressed hope that his new ministry will bear many fruits, adding that his elections comes at a time when the Armenian church is confronted with various difficulties and challenges, the Vatican Radio reported.
Pope Francis referred to the terrible ordeals that some Armenian Catholics in the Middle East are facing. But he added that “illuminated by the light of faith in the risen Christ, our vision of the world is full of hope and mercy, because we are certain that the Cross of Jesus is the tree that gives life”.
Bishop Krikor Ghabroyan, born November 15, 1934 in Aleppo, Syria. He was ordained a priest March 28, 1959, appointed Bishop 3 January 1977. He was consecrated bishop 13 February 1977.
His Beatitude Grabroyan studied at the Minor Seminary of the Institute of Bzommar Patriarchal clergy; then to the College of the Marist Brothers of Jounieh (Lebanon); Armenian Leone Pontifical College in Rome; and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome
Its various departments were: School Director St. Mesrob Bourj Hammoud (1960 – 1969), rector of the minor seminary of Bzommar (1969 – 1976), General Treasurer of the Institute of the patriarchal clergy of Bzommar (1976) . Armenian Apostolic Exarch of France (1977 – 1986) and Eparch of the same diocese (1986-2013). Since his retirement, he had retired from the Paris region.
Friday, July 24, 2015
(In Communion) - The eight nuns of a Serbian Orthodox monastery, Sokolica, in religiously polarized Kosovo have decided to learn Albanian so they can talk to Albanian Muslims who come to pray at an ancient statue of the Virgin Mary.
Muslims from all over Kosovo flock to the Sokolica monastery because they believe its 14th-century sculpture of the Sokolika Virgin can cure deaf-mute children and help childless couples become pregnant. The famous sculpture is adorned with gold necklaces, bracelets and strings of pearls from grateful pilgrims, both Christian and Muslim. “It cures not only their people but also our people,” said a Muslim neighbor.
The monastery, surrounded by the Muslim village of Boletin, is located in the mountains that overlook the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica.
“When Muslims ask how to pray, we tell them to pray in their own language and in the way they are taught to,” the 67-year-old head of the monastery, Mother Makarija, told Agence France Presse. “We let them praise their Allah as we do our God.”
“Our door is open for all who come, both Christian and Muslims. If Muslims think our sacred sculpture can help them, then they are welcome,” said Mother Makarija.
“But speaking the languages of neighbors is a must,” she said. “I don’t want our sisters to talk to the neighbors and Albanians who visit the monastery in English but in Albanian. I am always looking for [Albanian] textbooks. I may be too old for it but my nuns must learn Albanian.” (The abbess speaks Serbian, English, German and Greek.)
Local villagers tell how the abbess braved heavy fighting during the war to take a pregnant Boletin woman to deliver her baby at a Serbian hospital in Mitrovica. “It was dangerous even for her, despite the fact that she was a nun,” said Besim Boletini, who lives next door to the monastery.
Muslim villager Mustafa Kelmendi, 67, said Mother Makarija had saved his son Basri from Serb paramilitaries twice. “The war brought chaos … However she did not allow Serb forces to stay in the convent even when fighting was going on in the area.”
The nuns are well known as fresco painters and iconographers. “That is our main income,” said Mother Makarija.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace - feastday
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
... You..., who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God's special olive tree.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
John 14: "Jesus said to them, 'I am the path, truth, and life.'"
... Thus, therefore, Christ designates himself as the path, and as conjoined to the destination: since he is the destination, having in himself whatever can be desired, namely, existing truth and life. If, therefore, you ask, by what means you should make the journey, accept Christ, since he is the path; Is.30: 21: "this is the path, walk in it." And Augustine says: "walk by the man, and you will arrive at God. For it is better to limp along in the path, than to walk with vigour off the path." For, the one who limps along in the path, even if his progress is small, draws nearer to the destination; but the one who walks off the path, the more vigorously he runs, the farther he is distanced from the destination. But if you ask to where you are going, adhere to Christ, for he is the truth, at which we desire to arrive; Prov.3:7: "the truth will my throat meditate," etc. If you search the place in which you will lastingly abide, adhere to Christ, for he is life. Prov.8:35: "the one who finds me, finds life, and he will draw salvation from the Lord." Adhere, therefore, to Christ, if you wish to be secure: for you will not be able to lose the path, since He is the path.
Dicit eis Iesus: ego sum via, veritas et vita...
"Francis is the Only Convincing Voice That Says Things As They Are"
Archbishop Georg Gänswein Speaks on the Challenges of the Church Today
Vatican City, (ZENIT.org) Jaume F. Vaello | 2300 hits
The Vatican rooms are impressive. As opposed to what happens in television studios, which in reality are smaller than they appear on the screen, here everything is larger: Saint Anne's Door, the Apostolic Palace, the majestic stairway, Saint Damasus Courtyard. Historic magniloquence: some of its parts in fact are older than 500 years – splendid, but as opposed to what some continue to say, not ostentatious. In fact, I would say the opposite.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein received us in one of those rooms: not very large, red, luminous, ancient and elegant. One does not find in Archbishop Gänswein that haughtiness that one could expect from someone in his position, so close to two of the most influential persons in the world. He began to work with Cardinal Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1996, becoming his personal Secretary in 2003, a position that he kept at the election of the Cardinal to the Papal Seat. In 2012, he was appointed Prefect of the Papal Household and, with the new Pontificate, Francis confirmed him in that post. It was the year 2013, in fact in the month in which the intense heat paralyzed Rome, but not Pope Francis! It was August 31. Hence, Archbishop Gänswein is, to date, the only person in the history of the Church that serves two Popes contemporaneously. He lives with the German Pope: he concelebrates with him in the morning, they pray the Rosary together, and walk together for about a half hour in the Vatican Gardens. In the afternoon, instead, he works with the Argentine Pope.
* * *
Q: How do you manage to collaborate with two Popes? It doesn't seem easy to adapt oneself to two such different personalities ...
Archbishop Gänswein: They are certainly very different between them: and for me, after a long experience as Secretary of Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, to begin to work also with Pope Francis was not easy. Let's say that, using media language, I had to "render myself compatible," because it was quite an intense change. I had already received the office of Prefect, which Francis wished to reconfirm. What my collaborators and I do is to serve. And that is all. How is this done?
It depends much on the way the Pope guides the Church. However, I must say that there is a great advantage in all this: to live and work with two Popes, and to experience this diversity, has helped me and helps me to grow humanly and spiritually.
Q: Beyond the physical differences – the shoes, the cross, etc., it seems sometimes that there is a distance between the two also in what they say ...
Archbishop Gänswein: All the stories that we heard at the beginning of the Pontificate as, for instance, that he uses black shoes, or that the material of his pectoral cross is less than silver, are secondary: they are exterior things, ways of doing things. If one looks more closely at the contents, it will be seen that in exercising the munus petrinum there is continuity with Benedict XVI. And this is right. We are talking of a South American and a German, of two very different personalities. The first is educated and formed by the Jesuit spirituality, and it is logical that his way of thinking, of doing and also of exercising the Petrine service is different from one who had first of all an academic-university formation.
Q: Francis often reminds me of John Paul II ...
Archbishop Gänswein:: Yes, he can be so, even if they arrived at the See of Peter with twenty years of difference. Both had already accumulated enormous pastoral experience, although in a very different political and cultural context. Pope Francis, after having directed a large and not easy diocese such as that of Buenos Aires; Saint John Paul II at the head of the Church of Krakow that, at the time, was the only place where one could express oneself freely. I think we can compare them in this respect, but also in some aspects of their personality.
Archbishop Gänswein:: Francis, for instance, talks a lot about the "culture of encounter": to meet persons, and to meet them as much as possible. John Paul II didn't speak expressly of this culture, but he put it constantly into practice. It is contact with others, including physical contact, which is striking in the two Popes.
Q: Sometimes I've heard it said: "John Paul II is the Pope of Hope; Benedict XVI the Pope of Faith; Francis the Pope of Charity." Although simple, do you think it's a good analysis of the reality?
Archbishop Gänswein:: It's difficult to summarize an entire Pontificate in a word. Every time one attempts to enclose something complex in a word one runs a risk. I would say that Pope Francis is the Pope of gestures, the Pope of Mercy. We are still on the way; in any case, after two years, I think that to describe him as "the Pope of gestures" will at least help to give an idea.
Q: Two years after his renunciation, what was Benedict referring to when speaking of his "earthly pilgrimage"?
Archbishop Gänswein:: In his last brief address at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI spoke of the "last stage of the earthly pilgrimage." And before he had said that he would not come down from the cross, that he would not leave the Lord. He goes up to the mountain to pray for the Church and for his Successor. His role now is spiritual: to pray for Peter's barque. It's important to remember that the Church is not governed only with decisions and strategies, but also and above all with prayer. The Church is a "team of prayer," and we know well that, the more people pray the better it is. In this team the Pope Emeritus has a particular place of "pilgrim."
Q: Some do not yet understand the renunciation and interpret it as a strategy to block some attempts to cause "great damages" ...
Archbishop Gänswein:: We could write a whole book of hypotheses and theories in this regard! On that February 11, Pope Benedict XVI read a brief and very clear statement explaining his reason. All the rest that has been said and hypothesized is altogether devoid of foundation. That there were individual persons, or even currents against Benedict, was irrelevant in regard to the renunciation. It's obvious that a person like him had reflected long on a question of such importance. He didn't allow himself to be intimidated by anyone. He was very clear in his conversation with Peter Seewald, several years before the renunciation: "When there are wolves, when there is danger, the shepherd must not leave his flock." He didn't do so then, and he has never done so; his was not a flight. This is the truth and it is the only explanation of the reason for his renunciation.
Q: On some occasions you have spoken of the "fruits" of this renunciation. What are these fruits?
Archbishop Gänswein:: Pope Benedict realized that to guide today's Church it's necessary to have spiritual strength but also physical strength. It was an act of very great humility to renounce the Papacy to make way for someone younger and stronger. I believe it's a great example of love for the Lord and for the Church, an example that not all can or want to understand. Observing Pope Francis' Pontificate, one can perceive how the image of the Church has changed for the better. Pope Benedict took the first step for the change: he opened the door to follow this path. I believe it could happen also in the future.
Q: You will admit, nevertheless, that for you those days in February 2013 were not precisely tranquil: who knows what conflicting sentiments you might have gone through ...
Archbishop Gänswein:: Undoubtedly. They were very difficult days for me, but the distress began in reality many months before, the moment the Pope told me what he wished to do. Of course, I had to remain silent, as you can well imagine; that requited a great effort. That famous February 11 and then, the 28th, I was pierced by sentiments of gratitude, but also of sadness, and by something comparable to a sort of mourning. However, the Holy Father had made his decision, a decision of conscience, coram Deo, and therefore to be respected and followed.
Q: In your opinion, why did Joseph Ratzinger choose you as Secretary?
Archbishop Gänswein: What a question! He was 75 years old and was convinced that John Paul II would accept his resignation. I was already working at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and his Secretary at the time had just received a new post in the Congregation for Consecrated Life. The Cardinal was in need of someone who would function as his secretary and he chose me. He never explained to me why he chose me, and I never asked him. I was surprised, of course, but he took this decision and I accepted.
Q: I believe that the surprise to see that your Cardinal was becoming Pope was enormous ...
Archbishop Gänswein: Yes, naturally. I would never have imagined it, and I believe the Cardinal did even less so. He was elected. He wanted to retire, but the future was altogether different! He accepted the election of Pope because he saw God's will in it. And I became Secretary of a Pope. Those days were also like a tsunami for me, as you can imagine.
Q: With the advent of the new Pope did you ever think that you would probably leave the post of Prefect of the Papal Household, and that your life would then be somewhat more "tranquil"?
Archbishop Gänswein: No. Not because I was sure that I would be confirmed, but because all that didn't worry me. Therefore, I didn't think about it much and I was not afraid at the moment of the change. It's normal that, when the Pope wishes, when he believes it's opportune, he changes the team. In 2013 he decided to have me stay on in the post and I'm here. Now I think only of serving in the best way possible.
Q: In your opinion, and recalling that for Pope Benedict the fight against relativism was very important, what do you think is the dearest subject for the present Pope?
Archbishop Gänswein: The question of truth always remains important and I believe that Francis thinks about it the same way. It's not that he's not interested in the fight against relativism, but he sees clearly that, in his Pontificate, God is asking him to concentrate on other points, on other challenges. He has very much at heart to speak of a "poor, missionary Church." He likes the concept of the Church as "field hospital" or "outgoing Church." It is in these areas that Pope Francis is fighting at present.
Q: The family is one of the challenges. Why do you think so much confused news has been circulating on the last Synod and on the one that will be held in the next month of October?
Archbishop Gänswein: There are persons who have written or write without being well informed or well prepared and, in addition, there are "currents." Therefore, it's very important that the Pastors of the Church and also the faithful have the ideas and content clearly and express them frankly and sincerely. The October Synod must begin not from a particular problem, but from the main topic and that is, from "the evangelization of the family." Clearly the Church doesn't close her eyes in face of the difficulties of faithful living in difficult situations. However, the Church must give sincere answers that are oriented, not to the spirit of the times, but to the Gospel, to the Word of Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Tradition.
Q: What are the present challenges in this field?
Archbishop Gänswein: A challenge is certainly Christians that are in a marital situation theologically called "irregular." It means persons who have divorced and remarried civilly. We must help them, certainly, but not in a reductive way. It's important to get close to them, to create contact and maintain it because they are members of the Church as everyone else, they are not expelled and even less so excommunicated. They are supported, but there are problems in regard to the sacramental life. The Church must also be very sincere with faithful living in this situation. It's not only about saying: "They can, they can't." And there, in my opinion, it must be addressed positively. The question of access to the sacramental life must be addressed sincerely on the basis of Catholic teaching. I hope that in the months of preparation before the Synod proposals will be presented that help and serve to find the just answers to such weighty challenges.
Q: Some of these disputes come from your native land, Germany. Why?
Archbishop Gänswein: Yes. It's true that not all the errors come from there, but on the point in question certainly yes: twenty years ago, after a long and laborious negotiation, John Paul II didn't accept that remarried Christians could accede to the Eucharist. Now, we can't ignore his teaching and change things. Why do some pastors want to propose what's not possible? I don't know. Perhaps they give in to the spirit of the time; perhaps they allow themselves to be guided by the human applause caused by the media ... To be critical against the mass media is certainly less pleasing, but a pastor must not decide on the basis of applause or even less of the media. The measure is the Gospel, the faith, healthy doctrine, Tradition.
Q: Why do you think the media you just mentioned say little or nothing about persecuted Christians? Is the Pope alone on this?
Archbishop Gänswein:The Pope is very clear on this point and, unfortunately, great institutions are silent or, if they speak, do so in an inconsistent way. And this is very grave. It's unacceptable behavior. Up to now the Pope is the only convincing and courageous voice that says things as they are. He's not afraid and does not seek people's applause. He acts like Saint Paul, namely, he intervenes opportunely and importunely in a clear way
Q: The Pope's day is intense, and I conclude that yours is also: you don't have time to play tennis, as you certainly would like, or to dedicate yourself to university activity. Would you perhaps have desired another life?
Archbishop Gänswein: I've never asked myself this question, because I've never said " I want to do this, or that ..." When a post has come to me, I've accepted it. Pope Benedict asked me something, and so I accepted it and did it gladly. The same is true for Pope Francis.
Q: Reviewing your history beginning from those days of your youth – in which you had long hair (laughs) – up to today, what would Georg Gänswein: say of his life?
Archbishop Gänswein: When I look back from this perspective I laugh a bit about all this ... I was 18, 19 and at that time – end of high school and beginning of the Seminary – it was fashionable: I wasn't the only one! My father didn't like it and that caused moments of tension. However, personally a principle of life has always been useful to me: "trust, but be careful of whom." And also another, which in German says: Tue recht und scheue niemanden.. That is, "do everything you consider just and don't be afraid of anyone."
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To read the original interview with Archbishop Gänswein in Spanish, go to: http://www.sumandohistorias.com/entrevistas/georg-ganswein-francisco/
Monday, July 20, 2015
Sunday, July 19, 2015
(RV) - Le Patriarche de Babylone des Chaldéens, S.B Louis Raphaël I Sako recevra le prix international « La Traglia - ethnie et communautés » pour son engagement en faveur du dialogue interreligieux et pour les chrétiens au Moyen-Orient. Ce prix sera remis le 27 juillet prochain à Jelsi dans la région du Molise, en Italie dans le cadre des festivités en l'honneur de sainte Anne, patronne de Jelsi.
Le diocèse de Campobasso-Bojano a soutenu cette initiative dont le promoteur est le directeur artistique Pierluigi Giorgio, particulièrement préoccupé par les conflits sanglants au Moyen-Orient. Mgr Sako « a accepté avec gratitude et enthousiasme » l'invitation à participer aux festivités. Il célébrera une messe dominicale en l'Église de Jelsi, ainsi qu'une messe spéciale consacrée aux chrétiens martyrs du Moyen-Orient en concélébration avec Mgr Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, archevêque de Campobasso-Boiano. Il s'agit de la huitième édition de ce prix.
(Tratto dall'archivio della Radio Vaticana)
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Friday, July 17, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
Pope Francis: Mary always stands by us
In his homily, the Pope told those present that Mary’s life testifies that God never abandons us even in moments when it might seem he is not there. He also once again had special words of praise for the women of Paraguay whom he said were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war.
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks for the homily at the Mass:
Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé. In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters. Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family. We come to present our needs. We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again. How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother! How many tearful farewells! We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.
As so often in the past, we now come because we want to renew our desire to live the joy of the Gospel.
How can we forget that this shrine is a vital part of the Paraguayan people, of yourselves? You feel it, it shapes your prayers, and you sing: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Today we gather as the People of God, at the feet of our Mother, to offer her our love and our faith.
In the Gospel, we have just heard the greeting of the angel to Mary: Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Rejoice, Mary, rejoice. Upon hearing this greeting, Mary was confused and asked herself what it could mean. She did not fully understand what was happening. But she knew that the angel came from God and so she said yes. Mary is the Mother of Yes. Yes to God’s dream, yes to God’s care, yes to God’s will.
It was a yes that, as we know, was not easy to live. A yes that bestowed no privileges or distinctions. Simeon told her in his prophecy: “a sword will pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35), and indeed it did. That is why we love her so much. We find in her a true Mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of complicated situations. Pondering Simeon’s prophecy, we would do well to reflect briefly on three difficult moments in Mary’s life.
1. The birth of Jesus. There was no room for them. They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son. There was no place where she could give birth. They had no family close by; they were alone. The only place available was a stall of animals. Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”. She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”.
2. The flight to Egypt. They had to leave, to go into exile. Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger. They had to depart and go to a foreign land. They were migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King. There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel?
3. Jesus’ death on the cross. There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child. It is heartrending. We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross. Then she encourages and supports the disciples.
We look at her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard. We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day. We can identify with many situations in her own life. We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.
Mary is the woman of faith; she is the Mother of the Church; she believed. Her life testifies that God does not deceive us, or abandon his people, even in moments or situations when it might seem that he is not there. Mary was the first of her Son’s disciples and in moments of difficulty she kept alive the hope of the apostles. A woman attentive to the needs of others, she could say – when it seemed like the feast and joy were at an end – “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). She was the woman who went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56), so that Elizabeth would not be alone as she prepared to give birth.
We know all this from the Gospel, but we also know that in this land she is the Mother who has stood beside us in so many difficult situations. This shrine preserves and treasures the memory of a people who know that Mary is their Mother, and that she has always been at the side of her children.
Mary has always been in our hospitals, our schools and our homes. She has always sat at table in every home. She has always been part of the history of this country, making it a nation. Hers has been a discreet and silent presence, making itself felt through a statue, a holy card or a medal. Under the sign of the rosary, we know that we are never alone.
Why? Because Mary wanted to be in the midst of her people, with her children, with her family. She followed Jesus always, from within the crowd. As a good Mother, she did not want to abandon her children, rather, she would always show up wherever one of her children was in need. For the simple reason that she is our Mother.
A Mother who learned, amid so many hardships, the meaning of the words: “Do not be afraid, the Lord is with you”. A Mother who keeps saying to us: “Do whatever he tells you”. This is what she constantly says to us: “Do whatever he tells you”. She doesn’t have a plan of her own; she doesn’t come to tell us something new. She simply accompanies our faith with her own.
You know this from experience. All of you, all Paraguayans, share in the living memory of a people who have made incarnate these words of the Gospel. Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war. You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people. Like Mary, you lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith. Yet, like Mary, inspired and sustained by her example, you continued to believe, even “hoping against all hope” (Rom 4:18). When all seemed to be falling apart, with Mary you said: “Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us”. Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings. God bless your perseverance, God bless and encourage your faith, God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America.
As a people, we have come home, to this house of all Paraguayans, to hear once more those words which are so comforting: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you”. They are a summons to cherish your memory, your roots, and the many signs which you have received as a people of believers tested by trials and struggles. Yours is a faith which has become life, a life which has become hope, and a hope which leads to eminent charity. Yes, like Jesus, may you be outstanding in love. May you be bearers of this faith, this life and this hope. May you continue to build these up in Paraguay’s present and for its future.
Gazing once more on Mary’s image, I invite you to join me in saying: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises and graces of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.